A workshop on Advocacy Guidelines for Political Participation of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) in Malaysia, an initiative organised by the National Council For The Blind, Malaysia (NCBM) was held on recently at Grand Seasons Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.
Since the 14th General Election for Malaysia will be held by 2018, Malaysians with disabilities have the right to participate in the election process as citizens of this country. However, persons with disabilities find it difficult to realise their political rights due to systemic barriers within the election process. Thus, NCBM has conducted this project on political participation among persons with disabilities in Malaysia with the support from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
The General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) has developed an advocacy toolkit on political participation for the DPOs in Indonesia. A Focus Group Discussion was conducted on 27 March, 2017 to tailor the advocacy toolkit with Malaysian context. The two-day discussion were attended by representatives from five DPOs and officers from the Election Commission (SPR) and the Department for Development of Persons with Disability (JPOKU). As a result from the discussion, a Malaysian-based advocacy toolkit has been produced and was used for this training.
Throughout this training workshop, participants were exposed to a step-by-step procedure in planning and implementing their advocacy strategies as well as other important information regarding accessible election in Malaysia.
Workshop chairman Wong Yoon Loong said the objectives of the training were to expose DPO leaders to advocacy tools and techniques available for planning and advocating disability right issues to their members for the upcoming election
Present at this training workshop were Norlinah bt. Jamman and Nadhir Nasir from Akademi Pilihan Raua who presented the election process for Malaysians with disabilities and the elderly .
Besides the representatives from NCBM, the following DPO representatives gave their feedbacks as follow:
Jasmi Shafig 61, President of the Little People National Organisation of Malaysia said: “Generally, there is no issue except that the polling table and ballot bin “terlalu tinggi” (too high) and the waiting period was too long”
The Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) President Mohamad Sazali Shaari shared through his abled interpreter, Wan Zuraidah Abu that he has started voting since he was 21 years old. He said it is easy for the deaf to vote if they can read and follow updates on the location of the voting centers. The Deaf should exercise their voting rights given the access to information on elections and when the system is easy to follow.
Eamienor Zakiah Md Zuki or better known as Erni,the Executive Secretary of MFD who is also deaf, shared that her husband was forced to vote by his mother and has only started at the age of 33 years old.
Muhammad Fadhlullah Sharuddin, Assistant Director of the Disability Services Unit (DSU) of the International Islamic University Malaysia handles every category of person with disability (PWDs) which include Blind, Deaf, physical and learning disability
He said, the Election Commission (SPR) should choose schools that have accessibility especially in rural areas where some venues are not suitable for wheel chair users and senior citizens. The SPR should train people on how to handle voters with disabilities especially how to assist the blind to the polling box.
NCBM also organised a two-day workshop to produce the Media Guidelines for Reporting on Accessible Elections.